Louis de Bernieres - Captain Corelli's Mandolin: How has Louis de Bernières in the first nine chapters made the reader intimately acquainted with Cephallonia, the people, and the way of life?

Essay by FerrariRBA-, March 2004

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After reading the first nine chapters, the reader already feels an intimate connection growing between him, Cephallonia and its people. The island becomes something personal and special that the reader shares with the characters, and that nobody else has. This is accomplished by de Bernières through a variety of narrative techniques.

The first few pages of the first chapter introduce us to Dr. Iannis, the local doctor, apparently the only doctor, who is an amalgamation of every kind of specialist. He performs all kinds of medical operations, form curing ulcers to delivering calves. His methods are impractical and his character, like the operations he performs, is eccentric. Already, after the description of the doctor's operations and methods of payment, there is an enchanting sense of peculiarity about the island. Where else in the world would one see the local doctor pulling a pea out of an old man's ear with a fishhook and a hammer.

The doctor, whose distinctive charm through the Stamatis episode has already made us like him, then sits down to write his 'History of Cephallonia.' He begins by doing what he did not at first set out to do, and criticizes the island and its people, bringing to our minds the bleakest of images. He describes it as a place where 'men go abroad and return to die', tells us that the beautiful women are forced to live with the most loathsome men, and the women who are not so beautiful are left to die widows; the island 'betrays its own people in the mere act of existing.'

After frustration at his failed attempts to write an objective view of 'The New History of Cephallonia' Dr. Iannis decides to change the title to a more appropriate 'A Personal History of Cephallonia.' As the pressure to write...